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A thought! (fwd)

Poster: clevin@ripco.com (Craig Levin)


> I am given to understand that when situations like this happen.  It is the
> woman who is at fault.  Even in cases such as rape and yes even today.  The
> logic goes something like this, she used her feminine wiles and all that
> leftover Garden of Evil original sin on the pure and manly man tempting him
> beyond endurance and thus is responsible for the act.  Any struggling she
> put up was just an act.

Yes and no. There was, indeed, a flourishing school of misgynists
in mediaeval Europe. However: a reading of Malory's Le Morte
D'Arthur would clear that up. Rapes were _not_ a matter of
feminine wiles (else how could the story of Pellinore begetting
Sir Tor upon his unwilling mother happen, nor the rescues of
maidens about-to-be?). As a matter of fact, Malory himself may
have had the time to write his book...because he was doing time in
jail. For rape. Not all knights keep those vows they make at
dubbing...I am not accusing any member of the chivalry here, but
Thomas Malory certainly wasn't an example for young squires, no?

> I imagine that the cuckolded husband would be primarily interested in
> keeping his dignity by hushing it up.  Holing her up in a convent might
> very well be a fine solution as could poison.  The status of the other
> party would determine how that side was dealt with.  Lots of money can
> solve many little problems and well there is always assasination or poison,
> or a post in some backwater estate.  The important thing would be to keep
> it REAL quiet or be a laughing stock and subject of bawdy and embarrasing
> songs.

Loss of face would have been something that any knight would seek
to avoid. However, remember that anyone he's married is also
going to be a person of some status, and doing away with her
without balancing the politics of the matter may get him in even
hotter water. There _are_ courts in this period, and there even
(in England, and possibly in Portugal as well) was a court where
cases of scandalous speech were heard-the Earl Marshal's Court
(which existed in both realms, England's inspiring the creation
of Portugal's). Also, the Courts Christian would have some say in
the matter, and provide a legal out (separation a mensa et thoro,
possibly annullment) for the couple. The sword isn't always the
best option here, nor the one that a man might choose.

> In this case, she was a willing participant.  But, she would be seen as
> such even if she were not.  The question stands, does this Earl wish to
> marry again?  How can he manage that if his wife is in a nunnery and
> divorce isn't an option?  Are marriages annuled if the woman enters a
> convent leaving him free to find a more demure and well guarded women?

Entrance into the conventual life, at least in English law,
results in a state similar to legal death (see Blackstone). Canon
law also provides that if a spouse enters the conventual life,
the other is free to remarry, IIRC. I'd need to check the

However, none of this is easy. One must _consent_ to enter into
the conventual life, and the abbot or abbess has the final say,
not you. Bringing suit in either the Courts Christian or the Earl
Marshal's Court involves time and expense-and our ancestors were
as litigious as we are now, judging from the huge number of court
proceedings mouldering on parchment in the Public Record Office
in London and the Torre do Tombo in Lisbon.

Craig Levin
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